Higher gold ore grades boost for Oceana

Oceana Gold's Macraes mining operation. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Oceana Gold's Macraes mining operation. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Mining higher grades of gold-bearing ore has boosted Oceana Gold's final quarter production.

It delivered 232,909oz for the 2012 calendar year, surpassing its downgraded full year guide.

Crucial cash costs to produce each ounce were cut from expectations of more than $US1000 an ounce to an average unaudited $US940 for the year, with fourth quarter cash costs down to $US638 an ounce.

Oceana shares traded at $3.50 following the quarterly result, but plunged to $3.41 at the close.

Its newly commissioned northern Philippines gold and copper mine, Didipio, initially returned gold recoveries at 80% and copper at 85%, with concentrate sent for export.

However, the plant is ''temporarily off-line'' for the ''next few weeks'' as modifications are made to ''deficiencies'' in its tailings delivery system.

Oceana chief executive Mick Wilkes said both its Macraes operations, in East Otago, and Reefton, on the West Coast, delivered higher grades of gold-bearing ore to the mill, with production up 55% on the quarter to September.

''The decrease in cash costs from the third quarter 2012 was mainly attributable to higher ounces of gold sold,'' Mr Wilkes said.

Earlier guidance for Oceana's full-year production were downgraded from 230,000oz250,000oz to 225,000oz-230,000oz during the year - with 232,909oz produced, and 230,119oz sold during the year. Mr Wilkes reiterated guidance given last month for production of 285,000oz-325,000oz this year, having said in August that by 2016 Oceana wanted to produce 600,000oz of gold from the New Zealand and Philippines operations.

For the fourth quarter, revenue was $US119 million from the sale of 69,761oz at an average global spot price of $US1705oz.

Craigs Investment Partners broker Peter McIntyre said the fourth quarter result was ''strong'' for Oceana, from a combination of mining higher grade ore, and taking more gold to market.

''Oceana can probably maintain that cash cost [around $US600], with Didipio yet to come on stream,'' he said.

Forsyth Barr broker Peter Young said ''the biggest positive surprise'' was the cash costs, at $US638 oz, ahead of his firm's $US887 forecast.

The cash costs were $US17 million below forecast and $10 million-$15 million below typical quarterly costs.

''We will need to speak to Oceana to understand why there has been such a large drop in cash costs,'' Mr Young said.

Mr Wilkes said Didipio throughput rates had approached the equivalent of 2.5 million tonnes a year, and once plant modifications were completed, the project was expected to increase to 3.5 million tonnes a year.

There are an estimated 44 million tonnes of ore to be mined at Didipio over 16 years, with eventual annual gold production targets of 300,000oz-350,000 oz Oceana's full-year report is due to be released in mid-February.

simon.hartley@odt.co.nz

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